The Fox News Channel and its parent company Fox Corporation have declared war on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) after the country’s public broadcast network began airing a two-part documentary critical of the American news outlet.
The documentary, called “Fox and the Big Lie” and distributed under the ABC’s “Four Corners” franchise, contains interviews with former Fox News employees who said the news channel known for its conservative commentary showed favoritism toward former President Donald Trump in order to win his approval and that of his supporters.
After Trump lost the 2020 election to then-Senator and current President Joe Biden, ratings for the Fox News Channel began to take a dive, and several employees who sought to maintain fairness and balance at the network were let go, the ABC’s correspondent Sarah Ferguson reported.
The documentary spurred a legal threat by Fox Corporation, the New York-based entertainment powerhouse founded by Rupert Murdoch in the 1980s and controlled by his son, Lachlan.
The letter said the ABC had broadcast a program that “exhibited bias” and failed “to maintain any level of impartiality in the presentation of news and information.”
In a statement sent to The Desk on Friday, a Fox News spokesperson said the documentary lacked credibility in part because it relied on interviews conducted with several former employees.
“The use of five former deeply disgruntled employees — only one of whom was part of the company during our coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath — single-handedly discredits all credibility of the program,” the statement said.
Chris Stirewalt, the employee who was part of the network’s election coverage, was a political editor who worked on the channel’s “Decision Desk” and was partially responsible for issuing a key projection that then-candidate Biden would emerge as the winner of the presidential race in Arizona. Within weeks of that call, Stirewalt was fired.
After the first part of the documentary was broadcast this week, local newspapers owned by the Murdoch family through its other media company News Corporation immediately began running articles critical of the ABC, with the Guardian noting that nearly four dozen articles were published across News Corporation-owned papers within 48 hours of its initial airing.
One of the company’s flagship newspapers, the Australian, ran a rare front-page editorial slamming the “Four Corners” program, with the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Christopher Dore writing that the show “had a septic odor, as if it were cobbled together from a trash can with only the rancid bits selected for regurgitation.”
In a statement, officials with the ABC said the network stood by the documentary and its depiction of Murdoch and Fox News.
The statement said Fox News “was very helpful in providing footage and background briefings on material, including up to the night the program was being finished.”
“News Corporation not liking a story does not mean the story is biased or inaccurate,” a broadcast executive with the ABC wrote. “The Four Corners report is based on multiple on-the-record, on-camera interviews with people who were employed by Fox News who [gave] first-hand, verifiable accounts of their own experiences.”.
The official went on to say that the program was screened against the ABC’s own editorial policies, and that the documentary stood up to that scrutiny.
“The ABC stands by it,” the broadcast official proclaimed.
The second part of “Fox and the Big Lie” will air on the ABC next Monday.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Stirewalt was in charge of the “Decision Desk” at the Fox News Channel. A Fox News spokesperson later clarified that Stirewalt worked on the team but was not in charge of it.